Online Sunday Service:
In this reflection we will be exploring the new seeds of life that we are called to receive and cultivate. We will do this through looking at Jesus' parable of the sower and reflections from Thomas Merton's book "New Seeds of Contemplation".
As an opening hymn, listen to this medieval advent hymn, O com O come Emmanuel, sung as a gregorian chant:
This guided prayer will give you an opportunity for inner reflection on this theme:
As an ending to the guided meditation, listen to the following chant, and join in once you feel comfortable with the tune:
I encourage you to take a slow meditative walk, if possible somewhere in a garden or in nature. Allow yourself to be open and receptive to the newness of each footfall, the gift of each breath, the sights that your eyes drink in and the sounds falling on your ears. Make a fresh choice with each step to not fall into the routine of absent-minded walking, but rather to let go of the conventional mind habits when you notice them and return to the immediacy of the moment.
Questions for reflection:
I invite you to continue to work with this theme of new seeds, and one way you could do this is by allowing your imagination to work with the image of your inner being as a seed bed.
What are the characteristics of a fertile, receptive seed bed? What conditions are needed to encourage seeds to germinate, take root and become strong and fruitful?
How can you cultivate your inner being to reflect these conditions? What attitudes could you bring to your moment-by-moment experiences?
Sometimes when a seed bed is hard it needs to be ploughed up to break the clods, allowing it to become soft and open. In our own lives this ploughing and breaking open of our hearts can be very painful. Can you bring a different perspective to the painful moments of your life, receiving these as an opening and softening of your heart?
Prolonged exposure to gentle rain is essential in preparing a seed bed to be soft and receptive to new seeds. Can you allow more time to rest quietly in the soft gentle rain of God's presence?
Another important source of fertility in a seed bed is nutrition for the soil. Jesus uses this image in a parable in Luke 13:6-9, where he talks about a gardener digging compost around a barren tree to bring it to fruitfulness. This tells us that nothing in our lives is wasted, everything can form part of the fruitfulness of our lives, even the parts we want to discard. Spend some time reflecting on how the "waste" parts of your life can become the compost of fertility in the hands of the Divine Life-giver.
For further reflection:
Below are some of the quotes from the talk, and some additional quotes, for you to reflect on further:
"Here in time we make holiday because the eternal birth which God the Father bore and bears unceasingly in eternity is now born in time, in human nature. Saint Augustine says this birth is always happening. But if it does not happen in me, what does it profit me? What matters is that it shall happen in me."
“If Christ were born a thousand times in Bethlehem, and not in you, you remain lost”.
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Thomas Merton, from his book titled “New Seeds of Contemplation”:
“EVERY moment and every event of every person’s life on earth plants something in his/her soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it [seeds] of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of people. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because people are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love. ...
every expression of the will of God is in some sense a “word” of God and therefore a “seed” of new life. The ever-changing reality in the midst of which we live should awaken us to the possibility of an uninterrupted dialogue with God.”
“We must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good. God’s inscrutable love seeks our awakening. True, since this awakening implies a kind of death to our exterior self, we will dread God’s coming in proportion as we are identified with this exterior self and attached to it. But when we understand the dialectic of life and death we will learn to take the risks implied by faith, to make the choices that deliver us from our routine self and open to us the door of a new being, a new reality.”
“The mind that is the prisoner of conventional ideas, and the will that is the captive of its own desire cannot accept the seeds of an unfamiliar truth and a supernatural desire. For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with slavery and how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another and an opposite desire? God cannot plant God’s liberty in me because I am a prisoner and I do not even desire to be free. I love my captivity and I imprison myself in the desire for the things that I hate, and I have hardened my heart against true love. I must learn therefore to let go of the familiar and the usual and consent to what is new and unknown to me. I must learn to “leave myself” in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God. If I were looking for God, every event and every moment would sow, in my will, grains of God’s life that would spring up one day in a tremendous harvest.”
"If these seeds would take root in my liberty, and if God’s will would grow from my freedom, I would become the love that God is, and my harvest would be God’s glory and my own joy."
What happens to seeds inside their prisons
will happen to us in our houses.
The garden will bring out gifts it has hidden for years.
Presents, presence. ...
This resurrection, this spring, is here now inside me.
Language cannot say it. Silence is lord.
Birds are landing all around us like arrows
with messages from placelessness tied to their legs.
Let the lean and wounded be revived in this garden.
In one of Richard Rohr’s recent daily meditations he quoted Beverly Lanzetta who explores the darkness as a pregnant place from which one “gives birth” to the Divine in the world. She calls it “a theology of gestation.” She writes:
“From darkness and uncertainty, it waits for the Divine to be born in its own time. The process doesn’t try to contain new revelation in the dry, crusty soil of old forms, but germinates each seed in the moist openness of heart, fertile and hollow like the womb, receptive and waiting. It is the qualities of Wisdom, the Mother of all—merciful, gentle, humble, nondual, holistic, benevolent—that we tenderly bear. Verdant, womb-like theology welcomes new seeds to take root. Round and hollow in imitation of divine fecundity, gestation cannot be forced; new life cannot be prescribed. We cannot change the color of the eyes, or the shape of the nose. Similarly, we cannot fashion divine self-disclosure to our own liking. Impregnated with its seed, we simply support it and watch it grow.”
Rabbi Yael Levy (from A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness):
May the lingering lights of Chanukah illuminate the Divine spirit that dwells in all.
May the darkness inspire dreams and imagination.
And may the play of light and shadow help us see beyond what we know.
As an ending song, listen to the following version of the advent song that we have been listening to in various expressions today, O come O come Emmanuel:
Oh Lord, press into these lost lives with Your wordless beauty.
Scatter your seeds of life and liberty in us as we open our hearts to you,
creating a receptive, fertile environment.
Deliver us from our routine selves, and stir within us,
in the quiet inner dark of becoming.
May we become verdant again,
bearers of hope, freedom and love.
May we, for Christ’s sake, midwife the I AM life
returning constantly to our Source of Being
for our faithful turning to our world.